There is no longer any debate at all about this question. If you are in business today, doing sales or service of any kind, anywhere in the industrialized world, you need to be taking payment cards of all types. To do that, you need a merchant account. Period.
If you are new to this – just starting or taking over a business, or finally getting your own merchant account after “piggybacking,” perhaps illicitly, on someone else’s account – then you need to do your “due diligence.” Ask business owners you know for referrals, research some companies on the Internet and read about all the different processing firms that can best help you in your specific situation.
Since the sales reps at these companies will think about the future of your firm, and how to help you get there, so should you. Try to imagine the bigger, better situation that increased sales and profits will bring about in the future. The fact is, business times are changing, and changing fast, so there is no time to waste in making your business as efficient as possible. If you are losing sales because you can’t process credit card sales, you are definitely not working efficiently.
The future’s here
In the super-competitive marketplace of the day, it is absolutely necessary for every business to accept credit, debit and gift cards. Commerce moved from brick-and-mortar storefronts to mail order, phone order, mass-mailed catalogs, radio, television and, now, into cyberspace, and all over the last generation or two. With more than 80% of all retail sales, of every kind and in every channel, being made with an electronic payment card of some sort, you are at a distinct disadvantage if you are not processing these payments.
You need what is called a “merchant account” to accept credit and debit cards for payment. Statistics clearly show that credit card usage rose from 2000 through last year, and credit-reporting bureau Experian states that 14% of Americans now have more than 10 cards, up from 10% in 2004. The average consumer now has four. These statistics represent a lot of business.
Leading account providers, in fact, empower businesses by giving them the ability to accept credit cards, debit cards and the various kinds of “smart” cards, as well as make electronic benefits transfers (EBTs). All of this is accomplished with merchant accounts. Making it easy and convenient for consumers to use their credit and debit cards is a marketing challenge that has been largely met by American businesses. In these times of economic upheaval, we may see some consumers limit their use of these cards, but this may be balanced by others who will now rely on their unused credit lines to help them through lean times. Data available at myfico.com shows that 40% of American credit card holders carry a balance of under $1000.
Taking the next step
If you complete any leading company’s online application form, or call a leading processing firm to request a merchant account, you will almost certainly be assigned a specific sales representative to guide you through the process. This representative will want to obtain important, necessary information about your business, as well as answer any questions you may have. They will also handle submitting your merchant account application for approval, a decision about which should take no more than 24 hours.
Your sales representative will contact you upon your approval, and whatever credit card equipment you may have ordered will be shipped immediately. You can begin to accept credit cards right away, and implement both mail-order and online sales efforts if you have waited until you got a merchant account to capture that business. It is important that you recognize that having the ability to take credit cards is something your customers (and new customers) need to hear about from you. Your marketing, sales and advertising materials may need updating, and you should spare no effort in getting the word out about your new “corporate capability.”
Lead, don’t follow
No matter what the economic indicators or the business “environment,” your customers’ convenience is always important. Especially in competitive markets, you can lead the way by separating yourself from the pack based on service, and good service is based on attentiveness, care and swift handling of customer concerns. Being able to process payments of any kind, over the phone or in person, is crucial to your success. Your customers, after all, are the lifeblood of your business, and it is their money that ends up in your paychecks, and the pay of your employees, too.
With all the attention on high-tech card processing and broadband account connections, never forget the basic rules of business. The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the one paying. They deserve your best for every dollar. Lose touch with your customers, and you will lose your business. Continue to offer every reason to shop with you, and remember that offering them a lot of ways to pay counts a lot. Take care of your customers, and chances are they will help take care of you, too.